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As we celebrate International Women’s Day, we reflect on the unique value women bring to the world while also considering the journey to achieving equality. A lack of financial literacy is one of the key things that prohibits women from reaching their full potential. Studies show that women generally have worse financial literacy than men, meaning they earn less, spend differently and have less access to saving and borrowing money.

Education and training are part of the solution, but so is making sure women have the confidence to manage their money, which was an obstacle noted in the World Economic Forum study (2021).

Using the Viamo Platform, Strategic Impact Advisors (SIA), rolled out a digital training in six African countries with the goal to increase women’s confidence in managing their finances. Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda now feature – through simple mobile phone technology – the audio program, “Hey Sister! Show Me the Mobile Money!” The program supports women to take their first steps into managing and storing money in a mobile account, or mobile money. It also improves women’s digital financial literacy and decision-making skills, so they are able to reap the economic benefits of digital financial services (DFS).

Mobile money has become an essential tool for both business and personal use across sub-Saharan Africa. There are more than half a billion people across Africa with mobile money accounts, according to a 2020 GSMA report. The total dollar value of these transactions runs into the tens of billions.

Mobile money, unlike mobile banking, does not require a formal bank account. Instead, a user just needs a registered SIM card, making it attainable for disconnected or offline populations. Money can be sent straight from one mobile number to another. The money in this virtual wallet can then be converted into cash for a small transactional fee, used to pay for electronic purchases and even transferred to a savings account.

This has enabled millions of people to engage in the digital economy without access to formal banking or the internet. In emerging markets where there are still laws that hold women back from achieving financial inclusion, mobile money provides a link to the economy that did not exist before.

Even though I registered for mobile money three years ago, I had very little knowledge about it. With this training, I can also train the women groups in my community. I am very happy about this digital financial literacy education for women.

Sulemana Sekena, NabayiliSEND Ghana group participant

Women of the SEND Ghana group (Photo: SIA)

Taking control of their own money like this helps women to become financially resilient.  But it is not always easy to get started. That is where “Hey Sister!” comes in. SIA prepared 25 financial literacy lessons delivered through “Hey Sister!” covering everything from setting up a mobile money wallet to avoiding scams, and how to protect your mobile money if your SIM card is lost or stolen. In each episode, women explain the issue to a friend or relative in a relatable, everyday setting.

The scripts were recorded in 16 languages, including English, French and Swahili. They were made available for free using Viamo’s Platform in the six countries.

Mobile phone users dial a short code and then select from a menu of options, with no need for a smartphone or internet access. The service was first launched in Ghana and Uganda, sharing financial know-how with 45,000 women. Since then, it has been rolled out to Malawi, Rwanda, Kenya and Tanzania.

Listen to an audio lesson on Facilitating Women’s Engagement to digital financial services.

Women who listen to “Hey Sister!” are invited to become facilitators who are featured on the program. Facilitators bring women and sometimes men together to listen to each episode, discuss the content, and try out the techniques on their own.

The content is available for free, and anyone is welcome to adapt it and use it to teach others. In this way, women can use their  networks to uplift one another, benefitting everybody.

Soon after Chileka Ticheze Amayi Group received training, members of the group began training other groups to promote the ‘Hey Sister!’ content.

Mudziwathu Community RadioHey Sister! Implementing Partner in Malawi

Mobile money is just one technology, but by focusing on increasing women’s confidence in handling their own finances, “Hey Sister!” aims to help women take control of their own finances and gain skills to improve their lives and, in turn, the lives of their communities, contributing to economic growth.